Friends of the Parks Sounds Off On Lucas Museum Lawsuit, Backlash

Earlier this month, a judge denied the city of Chicago's motion to let Lucas Museum construction begin on its proposed lakefront site.

Museum officials say the delay created by the lawsuit is causing them to reconsider sites in other cities. And the group which filed the lawsuit, Friends of the Parks, has been the target of backlash over Chicago possibly losing the museum.

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“We’d love to see it stay in Chicago on an appropriate site,” said Friends of the Parks executive director Juanita Irizarry. “We would be sad to lose the projected economic development that might come with the museum, and for that reason we wish the mayor had offered another site that was legal to Mr. Lucas.”

For example, the site of the old Michael Reese Hospital or the marshalling yards to the west of Lake Shore Drive.

“We think the mayor’s premise is not correct in saying that he can’t use those other sites because taxpayer dollars are involved, because that assumes they should be given away free to Mr. Lucas, and we don’t understand why a billionaire can’t pay for the land on which he would build,” Irizarry said.

Friends of the Parks is going through the discovery process with the city and the park district ahead of an April hearing. Irizarry said there’s no guarantee in those documents that the city won’t put up any money, just that the park district won’t.

And what of the backlash – including from Father Michael Pfleger, a petition, and even an (unscientific) "Chicago Tonight" poll – against the group’s ongoing lawsuit?

“In the case of Father Pfleger, we don’t think he has a sincere desire to understand who we are, or the issues, because he hasn’t reached out to us in a private way to have a real conversation,” Irizarry said.

“In the case of online signatures, we think it’s great that people want to participate in democracy. We hear every day from folks who are supportive of [our position]. But ultimately this boils down to a case of the law.”

Follow Nick Blumberg on Twitter: @ndblumberg

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included a misquote of Irizarry in the last paragraph. The quote has been corrected.


Should the Lucas Museum Be Allowed to Move Forward?

Feb. 23: Fr. Michael Pfleger took to social media on Tuesday to openly criticize nonprofit Friends of the Parks for the continued legal delays preventing film mogul George Lucas from starting construction on his proposed lakefront museum. Do you think the construction holdup is warranted?

As Lucas Museum Eyes Other Locations, City Pushes for Construction to Begin
Feb. 17: During a Wednesday court hearing, an attorney representing the city of Chicago said museum officials are considering other locations, including other cities for the project.

Case Against Lucas Museum Moves Forward
Feb. 4: The city's move to dismiss a case against the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was thrown out Thursday in federal court, paving the way for a longer fight and potentially delaying the museum's spring construction plans. 

Lucas Museum Passes City Council, Could Break Ground By Spring
Oct. 28, 2015: Though almost unanimously approved Wednesday, the museum could still be stopped by a pending lawsuit.

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